Cheeseburgers are one of America’s greatest inventions. The hamburger patty itself dates back to centuries before this country even existed, but the idea to melt a slice of cheese on top and sandwich the whole thing in a bun came about in the good ol’ US of A.
There’s no consensus on who exactly invented it — maybe multiple people in different places had the same brilliant brainstorm — but by the middle of the 20th century, the cheeseburger could be found at fast food joints all across America.
Since then, it has outgrown its low-brow origins. It’s been tweaked and embellished and dissected and reinvented. Almost every restaurant offers one, from high-end steakhouses to hip gastropubs. Those fancified variations can be incredibly delicious. The caramelized leek and blue cheese option at Monk’s Cafe is pure savory decadence, for example, and the one with pimento cheese and crispy onions at Rex 1516 is a melty, oozing dream. But they can also get pricey (those two are both $14).
In celebration of National Cheeseburger Day (Sept. 18), here are 10 great cheeseburgers in Philly for $10 or less.
*This list is restricted to independent local spots only; no chains
It’s almost cliché by now to rave about how the cheeseburger at this East Passyunk-adjacent bar is way better than its everyday $5 price tag, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The crushable quarter-pounder is round and not flat, so its American cheese-coated crust gives way to a juicy middle. Order fries on the side if you’re super hungry — or just double up and get two.
1601 S. 10th St.
Whether serving out of his bright yellow cart or his Brewerytown restaurant, Josh Kim is a burger obsessive. His signature build (the Spot Burger; $8.50), sees a loosely-packed patty of house-ground meat wearing a sharp cheddar cape, a hat of crunchy coleslaw, a hickory-smoked bacon feather, and a ribbon of spicy “Spot sauce” to finish it off.
2821 W. Girard Ave.
Grey Lodge Pub
A cheeseburger is the perfect pairing for the always-excellent beer list at this Mayfair tavern run by Mike “Scoats” Scotese. A half-pound of Angus beef comes topped with fresh lettuce, a thick slice each of tomato and onion and your choice from 11 different cheese options, plus fries, for a grand total of $9.
6235 Frankford Ave.
For almost three years, visitors to Reading Terminal Market have been able to satisfy cheeseburger cravings at this family-run stand. Made with a tri-cut blend of Creekstone Farms beef, the four-ounce patties are served from morning through evening. Go before noon for one with a fried egg and potato or in the afternoon for one juiced with a scoop of mac ‘n’ cheese (both $6.95).
1136 Arch St.
Enjay’s Pizza at Smokey Joe’s
The best burgers in University City are hiding inside this longtime Penn hang. The kitchen, run by the same crew as the Pitruco Pizza truck, does a quarter-pounder of fresh-ground beef topped with American cheese and all the fixin’s, plus fries, for $8.50. Add bacon, crispy onions and smokey chipotle sauce for just 50 cents more.
210 S. 40th St.
All the produce at this colorful East Passyunk shop from the owners of Slice Pizzeria is organic, and the beef that makes up the 5-oz. patties is grass-fed and antibiotic-free, which makes up for the slightly higher-than-usual-fast-casual price: $8.50 each, not including fries. There are six cheeses to choose from, too.
1823 E. Passyunk Ave.
Burg’s Hideaway Lounge
When developer Ori Feibush bought this Point Breeze dive-bar-turned-gastropub and renamed it from Buckminster’s to Burg’s, he promised the prices would be neighborhood-friendly. Case in point: The “Burg’r and Fries,” which brings a Cooper Sharp-covered patty slathered in thousand island with a side of potatoes for $7.50.
1200 S. 21st
Every single one of the half-pound burgers at this drawing-adorned Fishtown spot comes in under a dime. Classic sirloin runs just $6.95, but even one made from high-end Wagyu beef is $9.95. In between there’s options like one smashed on the griddle with onions and another doused in truffle butter.
413 E. Girard Ave.
Nick’s Charcoal Pit
If you want the bonus flavor that comes from cooking over a live flame, order from this South Philly BBQ specialist. The char-grilled half-pound patty comes with your choice of cheese on a Sarcone’s Bakery kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and onion for just $5.75.
1242 Snyder Ave.
Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon
This old-school East Falls tavern is somewhat off the beaten path, but those who know come for the half-pound Angus cheeseburgers served on a LeBus country white roll. Mike Murphy runs the joint these days, but he adheres to his dad Billy’s philosophy of prices for the neighborhood, and that big patty is yours for $8.50 total.
3335 Conrad St.